Years before Trevecca planted roots on its hillside property on Murfreesboro Pike in Nashville, a college for Blacks made history occupying the same ground. From 1922-25 on what is now Trevecca’s campus, Walden College endeavored to help freed slaves become citizens and scholars.
Walden College – the First Historically Black College
Founded in 1865 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, Walden College is believed to be the first Historically Black College established in the South. Its goal was to provide education to freed slaves. By 1900, 13 majors were offered including medicine, dentistry, nursing, law and industrial arts.
Last fall, Trevecca unveiled a state historical marker for Walden College near the center of campus during a special ceremony.
Speakers at the ceremony included individuals who had worked to establish the significance of the location and advocated for the marker with the Tennessee Historical Commission. Among them were Trevecca faculty member Iris Gordon and graduate Tynaisia Rush, who founded Trevecca’s Walden Club in 2017 to continue the legacy of Walden College and foster community among Black students on campus.
“Walden represents who we are and who God made us to be,” Gordon said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the important contributions Walden College has made.”
Dr. Steve Hoskins, Trevecca historian and associate professor of religion, explained the significance of Walden’s rich history. “When Trevecca arrived on the Nashville campus in 1935, we had no idea we were stepping into a river of history already rich and deep—a history of Christian faith and educational accomplishment, of godly sacrifice and dedication.”
According to Hoskins, Walden University came to the Nashville property in 1922 and stayed for three years near the end of an historic era of accomplished African American education in Nashville, a city that the Banner Newspaper called “the greatest center of Negro education in the world.” After leaving the Trevecca campus, the college dissolved due to financial problems.
Walden’s achievements were many, including helping to start Meharry Medical School. It educated defenders of the under-served and teachers who spread throughout the South to help children learn to read, write and achieve their dreams.
“Walden College helped create a better world of freedom for African Americans after the era of slavery and the Civil War,” Hoskins added. “It provided a true example of Christian education and faithful service to God and humanity. We are grateful to be linked in our history to this groundbreaking school and all it accomplished.”